The recent FDA announcement about irradiating spinach and lettuce sold across the grocery stores in the United States has sparked off a public debate about the safety of irradiating food stuff for consumer use. Common sense dictates that zapping nutritional raw materials with radiation is likely to have a negative effect on the delicate nutrients contained in many plants – such as phytochemicals with known activity against cancer, heart disease, cholesterol and inflammatory diseases. Microwaving broccoli, for example, destroys up to 98% of its nutritional content, including vitamins, carotenoids, anthocyanins and other delicate protective nutrients. However, both the US and UK government take the stance that all forms of food preservation techniques cause slight changes in the nutritional value of food, but do not quantify loss of nutrition.
So why is this relevant to Halal?
Halal certification does not permit irradiation in any form (http://www.halalconsultancy.co.uk). This was one of the reasons why Saaf International chose to get their organic skincare products Halal certified. Apart from alcohol free (the West is now realising that many people are increasingly becoming sensitive to alcohol containing skincare products); no GMO (genetically modified organisms) and there is plenty of negative press about the implications of scientists playing God with plants; not allowing irradiation also allows Saaf products to retain as much of their natural nutrients as possible.
FDA’s plan to irradiate further food types in the future does not sit well with Western consumers, who are increasingly voicing their concerns over government and large corporation’s seemingly one sided-attitude towards food production, the exponential growth in Organic certified lifestyle products is a testimony to this.
I have made it my personal mission to educate the West about the merits of Halal certification, not just from a purity and quality point of view, but more importantly, from an eco-ethical stance, where I argue that Halal is the next ‘green’ label, by virtue of the fact that it disallows GMO and Irradiation. But this is not an easy task as Halal in the West is still strongly associated with the stereotype of cruelty to animals, and not surprisingly when you hear horror stories of animals being killed in a production line by circular blades with engraved Quranic versus, or even sometimes there may not be any Muslims supervising the actual ritual of sacrificing the animal, but instead there would be a tape playing the Azan in the abattoir!
We still have a long way to go in promoting Halal certification as the ultimate stamp of purity and safety. However, with growing concerns about the safety of foods and lifestyle products in the West, the time for global recognition of Halal certification has come.